Dr Tharusha Jayasena
Thesis: The roles of sirtuins and polyphenols in brain ageing and neurodegeneration
Sirtuins, or “silent information regulators” of gene transcription, are enzymes found in all life. Evidence suggests that they are key regulators of stress resistance, cell division and repair, and cell death. My research involved developing and validating a mass spectrometry-based method to quantify all seven mammalian sirtuins in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid. I examined proteomic changes in neurons exposed to Alzheimer's disease plasma and found changes to glycolysis, the process which converts glucose to extract energy. I also tested polyphenolic plant compounds for their ability to aggregate amyloid and reduce oxidative stress, which are associated with age-related cognitive disorders such as dementia.
At CHeBA, I received great mentorship and supervision, expanded my skills, and developed collaborations with other research groups.
Dr Jayasena is continuing her research with the Proteomics Group as a CHeBA post-doctoral fellow.
Dr Claire O'Connor
Thesis: Understanding behaviour and function in frontotemporal dementia: developing better intervention approaches
A key outcome from my thesis was highlighting that apathy, a common behavioural symptom, is a strong contributor to limitations in everyday function in people with frontotemporal dementia. My research also demonstrated the potential for using an activity-based intervention to address some of the behavioural symptoms and everyday functional limitations associated with frontotemporal dementia.
I benefitted from the wealth of knowledge of my supervisor Professor Brodaty, who was able to provide a great perspective on the bigger picture.
Dr O’Connor is a research fellow at the Centre for Positive Ageing, HammondCare, and conjoint lecturer at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW Sydney.
Dr Alistair Perry
Thesis: Brain networks in healthy ageing and psychiatric conditions
My research explained large-scale brain network connectivity associated with cognitive and behavioural changes in normal ageing and psychiatric conditions. In particular, I found connectivity patterns with age in brain-regions supporting lower-level functions are most susceptible to the influence of ageing. Furthermore, changes in structural connectivity patterns were identified in individuals at high-genetic risk for bipolar disorder, which are suggestive of developmental abnormalities which pre-empt illness onset.
Working with CHeBA increased my awareness of how brain changes, both normal and abnormal, are integral to the ageing population and the costs incurred on society and family members.
Dr Perry has since completed a six month post-doctorate position at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and will be starting a post-doctoral position at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.